Thursday, February 22, 2007

Another interview coming up, this time from Mark.

1. I see from your Science Scout badges that you've cloned something. What was it, and when can we look forward to you heading up an army of your clones?

I've cloned fragments of wasp DNA into bacterial colonies. (As you may have guessed, "cloning" in a real molecular lab is a lot less spectacular than it sounds, and usually doesn't imply that one has produced a Dolly.) The wasp in question was Euodynerus foraminatus, a relatively mellow little solitary huntress, and I needed multiple copies of the DNA fragments in a hurry.

If I were really going to head up an army of clones for nefarious purposes, I might pick something like the aforementioned tarantula hawk, but they're solitary too, so it would probably be a lot like herding cats. Y'know, shiny little flying orange and blue cats with big stings.

2. What one food item have you either found the hardest to replace or miss the most as you've gotten away from processed foods?

While I haven't totally given up processed foods, I've definitely cut way back, and I think I miss the low-cal cranberry juice the most. I'm still slowly using up the stock of Splenda, which I'm currently not planning to replenish, but when I think about it, my extra avoirdupois probably stems more from second and third helpings of dinner than it does from eating or drinking sugary things. So, instead of obsessing about sugar, I just cut real juice with water or seltzer, and it's sweet enough for me.

Really, although I'm capable of putting away a half-can of Pringles at my in-laws' house or munching through a box of Pop-Tarts with my nephew, I've never regularly kept that kind of stuff in my own kitchen, so it's not like I'm giving up favorite foods. In fact, our biggest offenders are really alleged "health foods" that aren't -- you know, like veggie sausage patties that had their origins in real vegetable material that's now full of chemicals and processed past recognition. Also, if one really craves snack foods, it's possible to find things like organic tortilla chips that contain only corn, salt, and oil. They're not low-fat and they're not cheap, but then again who needs to eat a pillowcase full of chips at one sitting?

3. What's the one thing you did while at MIT that, looking back, you realize could have gotten you in the hottest water with administrators?

Hoo boy. I did a few foolish-adolescent things that probably should not appear on a family blog :-), so instead, I'll tell a story about something did get me into slightly warm water.

The light posts on the west campus of MIT, at least when I was there, were built so that if you shook or struck the post really hard, the light would go out for about five minutes. Some engineers will tell you that this was done so that if a car hit the post, the power would cut out long enough for people to clear the area without being exposed to an electrocution hazard. However, more cynical MIT students usually insisted that the real reason was this: When drunken students tried to vandalize the lamps by shaking them, the light would go out, and the would-be vandals would think they were successful and leave.

My boyfriend and I were explaining this legend to a visiting friend, complete with a hands-on demonstration, and just as we put out maybe the fifth light, a Campus Patrol officer showed up yelling his head off. He confiscated our IDs, and my boyfriend and I had to go to the CP office the next morning and listen to a stern lecture before getting our photo cards back.

The sad thing was: When we did this, we were dead sober. :-)

4. Have you ever worked on a political campaign, and if so for who and how'd it go?

I did some volunteer work on the John Anderson campaign in 1980, and I delivered yard signs for the Kerry campaign (and other local Dems) in 2004. We know how those went. :-) Rick has been more active in politics, especially for local candidates in Kalamazoo, and I've been as helpful as possible there. One of our good friends has been elected to the city commission three or four times -- our one big win!

5. Who is your favorite fictional bug-o-phile?

Probably Michael Palin as Bugsy, the zoo entomologist in Fierce Creatures. Yeah, the character was kind of a nerd, but it was Michael Palin, for crying out loud.


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